Myanmar workers gather to meet Aung San Suu Kyi

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SAMUT SAKHON, May 30 —  Myanmar migrant workers and a virtual army of media have gathered outside the office of the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) waiting to see the neighbouring country’s beloved opposition leader and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi this morning. 

Shouting ‘Free Free Burma’ and ‘Aung San Suu Kyi’, some of them are wearing T-shirts printed with Ms Suu Kyi’s picture or ethnic clothing.

Kork Shwe Mi, a worker at an iron factory here, carrying a bunch of pink roses broke into tears while saying she is very happy today not only because she could wear a shirt with Suu Kyi’s photo but also because today she will see the woman that many call ‘The Lady’ with her own eyes. She said she loves Ms Suu Kyi very much and she wishes her good health.

She was greeted by Myanmar migrant network chairman Aung Jaw and Sawit Kaewwan, secretary-general of Thailand’s State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation.

Mr Sawit said that there has been a delay in handling migrant worker problems. Suu Kyi’s visit to see for herself and listen to the problems firsthand was expected to help speed up application of the measures to deal with the problem as she is a member of the Myanmar parliament, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw or Assembly of the Union where she can raise the issue for discussion.

A 10-year-old girl prepared to present her with a garland of jasmine, Thailand’s symbol of love and respect to mothers, to Suu Kyi, who is the mother of two sons.

Buddhist monks also came to meet her. About 200 police officers are providing security here.

The migrant worker issues–including the delayed national verification process, unfair wages, visa extension difficulties, and work-related injuries–will be raised during the talks that will take place with the Myanmar opposition leader.

Myint Shwe, 45, lost all fingers of his left hand while at work in a plastics plant. He is scheduled to be one of the Myanmar workers who speak with Ms Suu Kyi. He is an example of migrant workers who were uncompensated by his employer even though the accident seven months ago occurred during his regular work assignment.

Ms Suu Kyi will address to the crowd from a balcony on the third storey of the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) building at 10am.

About 30km southwest of Bangkok, Samut Sakhon is home to many Myanmar migrants—ethnic Burmans, Karen, Mon, Kachin and others from the ethnically-diverse country–the primary labour force in the fisheries industry.

Her trip to see the living and working conditions of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand was proposed by the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF).

The Myanmar opposition leader arrived in Bangkok Tuesday night to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia, her first foreign trip in 24 years.